The Shadows of Christmas Past

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within a few minutes they were dressed. He helped her with chores, and when they went back to the house, he rummaged in the pantry and the refrigerator and made a cheese omelet while Marj sat on the floor, playing with puppies and kittens. Taffy and Noel demanded her attention as well, and Harry took great pleasure in the amount of affection Marjorie Piper had to give.
    The more he knew about her, the more time he spent with her, the more he wanted to know, and the more he wanted to be with her. Which was terrifying.
    He had to find those kids soon and make his escape, or this was only going to get worse. He was werewolf, she was human. It hardly ever worked out. There were physical risks to consider, cultural problems. Family pressure alone kept most matings between were and mortals from really having a chance.
    One of the reasons the adolescent group was missing was that a werecougar boy had hooked up with a human girl. Of course his parents, and his entire clan, were utterly opposed to the relationship. Harry's job was to bring the boy home.
    He's just a kid , Harry thought. He'll get over her .
    Just as Harry would get over Marj. They had something special, something he feared he'd miss terribly. But he'd get over it.
    Marj looked up, sniffed. "Is the omelet burning?"
    Harry quickly turned his attention back to the stove. A few minutes later the meal was on plates, and she'd put the tired puppies and kittens back in their crates.
    "Hope I find them homes by Christmas," she said as she took her plate from Harry.
    "Speaking of Christmas…" he said, and led the way back to the living room.
    The candles and fire had burned down a bit, but the place still had a nice holiday glow to it.
    She gave the tree an almost tolerant glance. She did smile, at last, at the array of candles, and turned that smile on him.
    His head was reeling from it as they sat down next to each other on the couch. This position left them vulnerable to two tall dogs, but they fought off Taffy's and Noel's begging, and laughed together while racing to finish eating before the dogs wore them down.
    "Do they get to lick the plates?" Harry asked when they were finished.

    "No."
    "They should, because it's almost Christmas."
    "Don't spoil my dogs," she admonished. She got up, and he followed her back to the kitchen.
    "You cooked; I'll clean. Want to dry the dishes?"
    This domesticity was far too much fun. "I'd love to, but I have to go wolf hunting now."
    Harry took his leather jacket off the coat rack by the kitchen door and shrugged into it. "I think it's best if I conduct this search mostly at night. Not only will the animal be more active at night, but the less the locals see someone skulking around the area, the less suspicious they'll be."
    She accepted his explanation and offered him a kiss before he left. He enjoyed the kiss so much that he almost confessed that he was her wolf, so that he could keep on kissing her and wouldn't have to leave.
    In the end, it was Marj who nudged him toward the door. "Good hunting," she told him.
    The words caught at his heart She didn't know it, but she'd just said the same words a werewolf's mate did when sending him out into the night.
    He had to swallow hard around the tightening of his throat before he could say, "Thanks,"
    and walk out the door.

    I know that butt.
    The thought came to Marj as she was reaching toward a cabinet to put away a plate. The memory was vivid, and overwhelming. The dish crashed to the floor out of her numbed hand.
    Taffy yelped, and jumped away.
    Marj was so stunned that she had to hold on to the edge of the counter with both hands to keep from sinking to her knees as the memory washed up out of her subconscious. She'd only encountered the naked man a couple of days ago, yet all thought of him had been pushed out of her mind.
    It felt like it had been deliberately nudged away, overlaid, covered. Her awareness of the process was almost tactile. As if someone as psychic as she was had used

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